Seven Actors and Comedians That Began at The Second City

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Seven Actors and Comedians That Began at The Second City

Seven Actors and Comedians That Began at The Second City

Through interviews and memoirs, nearly all that worked together at The Second City developed life-long friendships into their different career paths, many of them making their way to Saturday Night Live and other major network productions and films. The names of actors and comedians that are alumni of the improvisational comedy institution is far deeper than the list below, but in terms of relevancy in today’s popular lens, these seven current stars found a home first at the Chicago improv stage of The Second City.

Stephen Colbert

Most notably known for his work on Comedy Central as the host of the The Colbert Report and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Colbert started off waiting tables and punching tickets at The Second City Chicago when in 1986. After taking classes at Second City, Colbert was hired to perform in the touring company where he was an understudy to Steve Carell. Colbert’s career began to take shape after finding a camaraderie with fellow cast member Amy Sedaris and Paul Dinello— working on the show Exit 57, The Dana Carvey Show, Strangers with Candy, and eventually The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. 

Steve Carell

A fellow news reporter in the field with Stephen Colbert in The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Carell began as a troupe member with Colbert under his wing. Carell is most notably known today for hid roles in The Office, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Anchorman, and The Big Short. Carell’s wide range of acting chops has earned him an Oscar nomination for his role of an abusive Olympic trial wrestling coach in Foxcatcher. Currently Carell is working on the Emmy nominated shows The Morning Show and Space Force.

Jason Sudeikis

Well known as a longstanding staple of the Saturday Night Live cast from 2006 to 2013, Sudeikis began in improvisational comedy in the 1990s. From Kansas City Missouri to Chicago Illinois, he performed with many companies and troupes before landing at Second City Chicago. From there, Sudeikis founded the Second City Las Vegas where he was noticed by SNL and hired to be a contributing writer for the show in 2003. Today, Sudeikis has been busy with one of the most popular streaming television shows as the American soccer coach in Europe as Ted Lasso.

Chris Farley

Starting the same day as Stephen Colbert in 1986, Farley began his improv comedy career at Second City Chicago. Farley’s sharp rise in the world of comedy was unlike any other, as he quickly earned a name for himself on the stage in Chicago. He then, three years later, earned a spot in New York City at SNL. Growing up and throughout adulthood, Farley was teased and bullied for his weight, but he managed to embrace precisely who he was, inside and out, and turn his ridicule into seemingly endless energy while performing his many characters. Farley’s career was short-lived due to his personal demons with addiction, but in the ten years from Second City to his untimely death, Farley starred in several films like Tommy Boy, Black Sheep, and Beverly Hills Ninja, and began work as the voice of Shrek. Due to his death, his role as Shrek was taken up by a Second City Toronto acquaintance and SNL royalty Mike Myers. Farley had recorded much of the lines for the role, but “DreamWorks executives opted to rewrite the script with a version of the character that did not so closely resemble the late actor.” There has yet to be another actor, comedic or dramatic, to possess the power with which Chris Farley brought to every moment on stage.

Bob Odenkirk

Although never officially considered to be a part of The Second City, Odenkirk began his improv comedy career at The Players Workshop under Del Close, the founder of The Second City. The Players Workshop, often referred to as The Players Workshop of The Second City, was where Odenkirk honed his comedic craft in 1984 until he joined SNL in 1987. Hired as a writer alongside Conan O’Brien, Odenkirk worked at SNL until the early 1990’s before writing and performing for other shows like The Ben Stiller Show, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, and Roseanne. Odenkirk took some time to make it big in the business, earning smaller roles in shows like Arrested Development, Tim and Eric Awesome Show, and Weeds. His big break came with the hit show Breaking Bad in 2009. More recently, Odenkirk has starred in Better Call Saul and the hit action film Nobody.

Amy Poehler

After graduating college in 1993, Poehler started studying and performing improvisation comedy at ImprovOlympic in Chicago where she befriended Tina Fey. Shortly after, Poehler joined the touring company and was eventually promoted to the main stage cast of Second City. Poehler joined the Upright Citizens Brigade in 1995 which landed her small gigs on Late Night with Conan O’Brien and later UCB on Comedy Central. She then joined the cast of SNL in 2001, co-anchoring Weekend Update with Tina Fey, and Later Seth Meyers. Her more recent works include Parks and Recreation, as well as her directorial debut of Wine Country, and the upcoming Netflix film Moxie, based on the 2017 Jennifer Mathieu novel.

Bill Murray

In 1973 Bill Murray began his stint at The Second City at the invitation of his brother Brian Doyle-Murray. Murray performed alongside John Candy and Betty Thomas, among others. After Second City, Murray joined The National Lampoon Radio Hour in New York City at the behest of John Belushi. After rising the comedy ranks doing shows like TVTV in Los Angeles and NBC’s Saturday Night in New York, 1976 became the year Murray came into the spotlight. Murray joined the cast of the second season of Saturday Night Live in 1977 and worked on the show for three years, developing characters and connections that would continue to serve him throughout his career. His rise to fame on the silver screen included movies like Meatballs, Caddyshack, Stripes, and Tootsie. After coming and going in the Hollywood acting scene, never truly leaving, Murray has been a part of over 80 films. Most notably and recently Murray has been in Wes Anderson films like The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Moonrise Kingdom, and his most recent work in The French Dispatch. Murray has amassed a number of legends around his adventures off screen throughout the years. From breaking a hecklers arm at Second City and then buying him a beer and driving him to the hospital, to showing up at college house parties to play tambourine in a band, the tales are fascinating and endless.The Colbert Report and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert

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